WACHS: It really is the little things that mean a lot


It doesn’t roll off my tongue all that well to say it’s 70 years old, the little song “Little Things Mean a Lot” Kitty Kallen first sang in 1954. I wasn’t a music master by any means then but I remember hearing it on WPTF from time to time back when radio was king.

The gist of it is the lady is singing to her love interest that the little things he does to and for her mean a lot to her. The little things, she croons, are things such as “blow me a kiss from across the room, say I look nice when I’m not, touch my hair as you pass my chair, give me your arm as we cross the street, call me at six on the dot.” You get the idea.

I thought about the message of little things being important the other day as I was driving down a country road not far from where I live and I saw a black Weber barbecue grill in someone’s yard. It looked just like the one my folks had where lots of hamburgers were grilled, hot dogs were roasted, steaks savored and, more often than any other meat, chickens were barbecued.

Dad, who by then we all called “Pa” because the first grandchild, a little blue-eyed blond lady, hung that moniker on him because she couldn’t or wouldn’t say “grandpa,” would fire up that thing at the drop of a hat or match and cover it with chicken.

More often than not he performed his act under the carport. It was out of the weather if there was rain and there were lights if the task was started late or was taking longer than usual to complete.

He cooked them when our Prodigal Son brother returned home with his brood to visit from his captivity north of the Mason-Dixon line. He cooked when First-Born Other Brother and his crew showed up to complete the trio when I’d showed up with my team. Before I convinced Shirley she should pair up with me, he’d cook when he, Shirley and I returned from the UNC football games we took in during our courting days.

Shoot, sometimes he’d cook just because he liked to. Or wanted to. Or it was Saturday night. Or chickens were on sale at Piggly-Wiggly.

We all thought the sauce was the secret. Never knew exactly what was in it. Some vinegar, to be sure. Sugar. Not sure what else. He would wait until late in the cooking process and then slather it on, eventually producing a little bit of crispness on the chicken. Without fail, Mama, who had her own short name – “Ma” – courtesy of the same grandchild, would say “everybody thinks Frank makes the sauce but really I do.”
Didn’t matter. We’d drink it if we could have and they weren’t looking.

All that is good memory but what rang a bell for me the other day with the grill I saw was a little routing Pa had for some reason. You filled the grill with charcoal and let ‘er go. At some point after burning down, he’d fiddle with the air flow underneath and to make sure things were burning properly and evenly, he’d reach out and kick the thing to shake up the coals and let the ashes fall away.

It was a strong sturdy grill. I had bought it for him after he went through several dinky thin metal ones. Seems like I paid $50 for the thing in the ‘60s. I had to be sturdy to take the kickings.

I don’t know what happened to it eventually. He stopped cooking long before he stopped living and Mother Nature and Father Time took their toll on all of us.

But the little thing about it that meant a lot? When I saw the neighborhood grill the other day, I remembered all that and I smiled, maybe even laughed out loud at the memory. That was a little thing that meant a lot to me.

I’m not saying you’ve got a grill in your memory but I’ll bet you’ve got some little thing that means a lot. Find it. Remember it. Embrace it.

It’ll mean a lot.

Bob Wachs is a native of Chatham County and emeritus editor at Chatham News & Record. He serves as pastor of Bear Creek Baptist Church.